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Pot Dispensaries Prepare for New Law

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MEDFORD, Ore. — Marijuana dispensaries become legal statewide in March and businesses in Medford are already getting prepared.

Those businesses are waiting for the new regulations to be defined, but the say the city could be their biggest stumbling block. Operation Pipe Dreams in west Medford is one of the businesses trying to make the transition from head shop to pharmacy, but they say they’re worried the city could be uncooperative.

Right now, the actual rules around medical marijuana dispensaries haven’t been defined. That task is being taken on by the rules advisory committee, a group of advocates, law enforcement, district attorneys, and city leaders from across the state.

Operation Pipe Dreams says they already have a good idea of some of the requirements and they can start thinking in advance about things like security, store layout, and quality testing. They also say they’re running into a good amount of people still opposed.

“They don’t work where we work, they don’t see what we see, and they don’t experience what we experience,” said Anna Johnson, the manager at Operation Pipe Dreams. “And they definitely aren’t sick, because if they were sick, their answers would be different.”

While he wasn’t available for an interview, Police Chief Tim George has been one of those outspoken opponents. He says the city council will have the ability to deny business licenses to dispensaries in town. Peter Buckley, one of the supporters of the new law, says it would be hard for a city to outright deny dispensaries, but they will likely be able to place zoning restrictions or limit hours of operations.

The council is set to take up that issue sometime between now and when the law goes into effect in March. Buckley, who is also on the rules advisory committee for the new law, says there’s still a long way to go before final regulations are decided upon. Until that happens in March, dispensaries will remain illegal.

The Oregon Health Authority is working to establish a system for licensing, and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. Early analysis indicates growers will have to prove to the state that the marijuana is being grown for patients who need it, and leftovers will be sent to testing facilities. They will be testing a sample from each plant in a garden. The medicine will then be passed along to the dispensaries.

According to published reports, the committee charged with finalizing the rules expects to have a final draft complete by December 1st. The governor says the law does not protect the dispensaries, growers, caregivers, or patients from federal prosecution.